Unless all five dishes we ordered were the exception to the rule, Perilla lacks the finesse that’s a necessity at a restaurant that prices dishes in the $30 dollars range.
The Decor: The layout of the restaurant parallels its predecessor, Inside. However, the dark wood on dark wood varied only by the mix in patterns is simply dingy. The lack of lighting doesn’t help the cause. Snagging a seat at the bar, which is located by the restaurant’s only windows, may detract from the otherwise stuffy confines. The drab settings don’t seem to deter diners. On a rainy Tuesday evening the restaurant boasted full tables and patrons appeared to truly enjoy themselves.
The Chef: Harold Dieterle, formerly a sous chef at The Harrison, is also the famed winner of Top Chef. In 2006, he left The Harrison to open Perilla, an American inflected Asian restaurant named for an aromatic “minty” Asian herb. His penchant for Asian food comes across in the menu, with items like hamachi, okinawa yams, eggplant, and tatsoi dotting the page.
The Food: The flavors and ingredient combinations were interesting and creative, but the subpar execution and stale ingredients took away from what had the potential to be a fine dining experience.
The Hamachi, though accompanied by an inventive & complex cilantro-yuzu broth, tasted less than sushi grade and I wondered whether I’d fall ill a few hours later. Similarly, the Perilla Salad with its wilted leaves & mediocre feta looked like something I would receive at a diner.
The pattern repeated itself with the entrees. The Pan Roasted Langoustines, paired with crunchy rice and eggplant, tried to make up for the lack of freshness with overdoing the sauce. The eggplant was too oily and the rice albeit finely crisped was over doused with the sauce. My dining partner ordered the Halibut Special which was paired well with cucumber and lightly prepared, but without heavy sauces to dissemble flaws, the chewiness of the Halibut tipped off its second-grade quality.
Rare is the occasion that dessert simply “blows it.” The lemon donuts were so off they were inedible. And the amuse bouche cookies, while a nice touch, were so sugary and chewy they may as well have been straight out of the box.
The Drinks: The wine list was affordable price – with all the white wines offered at under $100 a bottle. Of noted interest was the lack of California wines. The beer selection was large, and included Japanese options as well.